The office of Gov. Rick Scott will now be charging for public records requests, under a new policy announced today. #
It’s not entirely unheard of. Members of the press corps who have been around for a while are noting that this practice was common under Jeb Bush, though it was reduced considerably under Charlie Crist, whose staff would sometimes go out of their way to process requests quickly at no charge. #
The release notes that “recently, processing a tremendous increase in public records requests has taken a great toll on existing information technology and other labor resources.” #
Here’s the full text: #
Governor Rick Scott is committed to providing Floridians with access to information with which they can hold government accountable. To provide full and expeditious compliance with Florida’s open government and public records laws, Governor Scott issued Executive Order 11-03, re-establishing the Office of Open Government. #
Recently, processing a tremendous increase in public records requests has taken a great toll on existing information technology and other labor resources. The nature and volume of requests and a need for legal review of certain documents and files, combined with duplicating and other material costs, significantly increase the cost to the taxpayer. #
Under these circumstances and in recognition of our need for fiscal restraint, taxpayers can no longer absorb all of these costs. #
Therefore, in accordance with section 119.07, Florida Statutes, the Executive Office of the Governor has adopted a cost recovery policy, effective immediately. This policy will enable the office to properly respond to all requests while remaining accountable to taxpayers. #
Cost Recovery Charges #
Upon receiving requests for public records, the Office of Open Government will provide an itemized estimate to the person initiating the request. The estimate will include the hours required, the estimated service charge for extensive labor, and actual duplicating or other material costs. #
If upon receiving an initial estimate of charges a request is changed or otherwise limited in scope (limiting individuals or agency divisions, for example), the person initiating the request will be provided with a new estimate of charges. #
Fee Guidelines – Special Service Charge: #
The Executive Office of the Governor is committed to being as accessible as possible while remaining accountable to taxpayers. Therefore, the following cost recovery policy has been established: #
- A special service charge will be imposed if the nature or volume of public records requested to be inspected or copied is such as to require extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by personnel of the agency involved, or both.
- Clerical or supervisory assistance includes searching for and or locating the requested record, reviewing for statutorily exempt information, deletion of statutorily exempt information, and preparing, copying, and re-filing of the requested record.
- Such charge is in addition to the actual cost of duplication.
o A special service charge will be warranted if the nature or volume of the public records requested to be inspected or copied requires more than 30 minutes of agency resources. #
o If multiple agency divisions are involved, the special service charge will be based on the aggregate amount of time expended by all personnel and information technology resources, if applicable. #
o The charge for clerical or supervisory resources will be no greater than the hourly rate, including benefits, of the lowest paid personnel capable of providing such services. #
o In those cases where legal review is necessary, the charge will be at the lowest attorney rate (salary and benefits) in the Office of General Counsel. #
o The Office of Open Government will not pass along its costs for processing and facilitating requests. #
- When documents can be sent by email, we will do so in the interest of efficiency and to minimize costs. In these cases we will only charge a service charge for extensive time. However, when a large volume of documents is requested and must therefore be placed on a CD or DVD, the costs of those materials will be recovered.
- If the record is in electronic form, then we will copy onto CD or DVD, as needed. You will be charged for the actual costs of the disk, not for the time to copy the documents onto the media.
- If the cost for providing paper or electronic copies of records is less than $5.00, including postage and special service charges, the records will be provided at no charge as long as it is not cost-effective to collect such fees.
Collecting Recovered Costs: #
- If fees are imposed for copies and/or the special service imposed, the requestor will be advised of estimated costs.
- Payment will be collected before documents are copied, reviewed, redacted, or otherwise processed for release if their production meets the threshold for extensive time or material costs.
- If the actual costs incurred are less than such payment as estimated, the overpayment will be refunded to the requestor. The requestor will be required to remit additional monies upon release of the documents to pay for any costs in excess of the estimate.
- In the event the requestor fails to remit additional monies to cover costs in excess of the deposit, the requested public records will not be released.
Material Costs: #
One-sided Copy: $ 0.15 per page of not more than 8½ x 14 inches Double-sided copy: $ 0.20 per page of not more than 8½ x 14 inches All other copies Actual cost of duplication (material and supplies, not labor) CD-ROM: $0.85 each DVD: $1.15 each Certified Copies: $1.00 per page Packaging and shipping charges: Estimated costs may be changed to reflect actual cost incurred.
Reducing Costs and Limiting Charges: #
- Labor costs can be reduced significantly if requests include keywords as opposed to “all documents or emails.” Similarly, narrowing a request to certain individuals or divisions can greatly reduce the use of extensive labor.
- Many easily accessible records are available online for no charge. We will continue to add documents and information as we identify some of the most frequently requested public records.
- We will help direct you to free, online sources whenever possible.
- Consider refining your requests for documents to provide better results and reduce unnecessary or duplicative costs.